The first thing the Cardinals said to themselves as they got into the locker room Sunday? "We made it more exciting than it should have been." That's true. It was weird how 526 yards of offense seemed not enough. Maybe because it almost wasn't, as the Cards had trouble slowing another talented-but-rookie quarterback in Jalen Hurts.
But the Cardinals won, they control their destiny to get into the playoffs, and they get the struggling 49ers and then the arch-nemesis Rams – who just happened to stub their toe in a loss to the Jets Sunday. The Cardinals have shown they are not a juggernaut quite yet, but other than the Chiefs, who is?
I did think it was interesting to hear DeAndre Hopkins, after his marvelous game, not that the Cardinals as a whole – and he and Kyler Murray in particular – still have work to do to be the team they believe they can be.
"Kyler, he holds himself to a high standard to where he beats himself up on a lot of stuff and I feel like that's something we all have to work on, even myself," Hopkins said. "When I don't get the ball in a crucial situation, it's moving on past that. Sometimes I think we might let that stick in our head. Going to the next possession and knowing, 'All right, man, we're letting this team in the game and we really should be blowing them out.' I think that's the next step for us. Having those statement wins and making it weekly."
We will see if that happens over the next couple of weeks or in 2021. It feels obvious this team is still learning about itself and what it can be. This was a tough year to fully make something like that happen. But 10 wins is still there to be grabbed.
-- Great to see a little vintage Larry Fitzgerald on that TD catch, and also on the 15-yard catch to open the game. I don't know what the future holds for Fitz, but he can still play football.
-- D-Hop is pretty dominating too. Maybe this is his push for a fourth straight All-Pro selection.
-- The Cardinals might've suffered a couple of injuries that will hurt on the stretch run. When tight end Maxx Williams went out with his ankle injury – and remember he was on IR earlier this season with an ankle problem, so this might be the same one – he came to the sideline and spiked his helmet. Usually not a good sign.
Then Dennis Gardeck had to leave on a cart way in the waning seconds after going down. No word on what it was – you're assuming knee or leg with a cart – but losing him would stink. He had two more sacks Sunday, is up to seven for the season, and it is crazy to think you would get seven sacks out of Gardeck this season. He's for real as a pass rusher.
-- Speaking of sacks, another strip sack for Haason Reddick, giving him 11. (Yes, Reddick and Gardeck have combined for 18 sacks, and Gardeck didn't even play a defensive snap until Chandler Jones was out for season.)
-- Isaiah Simmons started the game as a deep free safety, plays some snaps at outside linebacker too, and is definitely being worked in as the Swiss Army knife that was promised (although it looked like he lost contain on the early wide receiver screen to Quez Watkins that seemingly was just supposed to get the Eagles closer for a field goal and ended up a 32-yard touchdown scamper.)
-- Zach Allen had his best game as a pro. The second-year defensive end had a team-high 11 tackles, a sack and a pass batted down.
-- The Cardinals had way too much trouble and near-trouble defending third-and-a-mile. They let the Eagles get 23 yards on a third-and-29, allowing too easy of a fourth down try on a the tying TD drive of the Eagles. And the third-and-21 from the Arizona 22, when Hurts nearly got a pass to tight end Dallas Goedert in the end zone was too scary.
-- Murray had a couple more fumbles and a third that, had it been reviewed, would've been called one. The QB has to be careful with the ball, especially when bodies are around.
-- Speaking of Murray, that was his ninth game with both a passing and rushing TD this season, breaking the NFL record of eight by Cam Newton in 2011.
-- But make no mistake, while Murray had a couple of hiccups, but he played well.
-- The safety the Cardinals got at the outset of the game when Jalen Hurts was called for intentional grounding in the end zone was the Cards' first safety since Calais Campbell sacked 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2016.
-- I agree with Kliff Kingsbury's assessment of Jalen Hurts. "The young quarterback is a baller." No way the Eagles can go back to Carson Wentz now, right?
-- Mike Nugent made all his kicks again, 4-for-4 extra points and a 40-yard field goal.
-- Guess we know now who the QB would be if COVID hits the quarterbacks room Broncos-like, right Andy Lee?
That's enough for tonight. Short week, Christmas week, 49ers on Saturday.